“My parents were told to put me in an institution…They are… it’s called Harvard. I am recovered thanks to them and TACA.”
In case you haven’t been following the news out in California, the LA Times recently ran a four-part series on autism. One part focused on recovery and you can read it here. If you want to read the other articles, you may find them here.
We are happy to hear people talk about the possibility of autism recovery despite its controversial nature.
We know recovery is possible and we have personally seen children recover. So, we thought we would review a peer-reviewed article on autism recovery.
Neuropsycholgy Review published the article and Molly Helt, Elizabeth Kelley, Marcel Kinsbourne, Juhi Pandey, Hilary Boorstein, Martha Herbert, and Deborah Fein served as authors. You may find a copy of the article here.
The authors first defined “recovered”.
- First, the child’s medical or psychological records must have a convincing history of autism spectrum disorder.
- The medical or psychological records must demonstrate that the child had a history of delayed or slowed development.
- The child must currently be learning and on a typical developmental trajectory in all areas.
- The child must no longer meet the definition of autism spectrum disorders as measured by an independent psychologist.
Predictors Associated with Recovery
After defining recovery, the authors go on to review research articles describing recovery. Following the review, the authors discuss predictors of recovery. By this, they sought to examine pre-treatment characteristics that were associated with positive treatment outcome. Before reviewing the predictors, it is important to note that the predictors are associated with positive outcome and do not guarantee recovery. It is also important to note that children who lack one or more predictors may still go on to recover.
- Early communication and language
- Motor development
- Rate of learning after intervention begins
Predictors Associated with Poor Outcome
Next the authors review characteristics that have been associated with poorer outcome. Again, these are merely associations and do not guarantee that a child who exhibits these traits will have a poor outcome.
- Accelerated head circumference
- Pre-existing condition such as Down syndrome, tuberous sclerosis
- Other sensory impairments (blindness, deafness)
- High rates of stereotypical behaviors
Treatments Associated with Recovery
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the treatment most often associated with recovery from autism. Research has shown that intensive intervention (40 hours per week) for a period of 2 years or more is most often associated with recovery.
The authors discuss other treatments with promising outcomes such as pivotal response training and the Denver Model. The authors also discuss the importance of biomedical interventions to address the illnesses often seen in children with autism (e.g., GI disease, food allergies, and metabolic disorders).
Recovery from autism is possible. While many factors are associated with positive outcome, scientists have yet to find the one approach that works for every child. Even with intensive intervention, there is no guarantee that a child will recover.
Additional Information on Recovery
Talk About Curing Autism (TACA) has quite a few recovery stories available on their website. We used the Zach’s story for our photos in this blog. If you would like to see some videos on recovery, we like the video produced by the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD), Recovered. You may also find these videos at TACA helpful.